Is the Rapture nigh? The agnostic in me of course says, certainly not. But if the man is indeed coming around, if Jesus is indeed waiting, there's only one person I'd like ringing in my ears, right alongside the trumpets, pipers and one hundred million angels singing -- Al Green.
Since Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson, Curtis Mayfield, Ike Turner, Wilson Pickett, Willie Mitchell, Solomon Burke and so many more have left us, I have to ask how any self respecting (or self flagellating) Christian thinks I that should believe in God is beyond me. Not that I need God necessarily, or that I don't believe (in something), and yet, when I hear that true soul survivor, Al Green, I start to think ... Jesus Christ ... maybe I do need the Lord. Green, one of the greatest soul singers ever placed on this God-forsaken planet, is still living, still putting out records and still performing live. One of the last real soul singers blessing our landscape -- especially a musical landscape populated by lip-syncing video vixens, pop punk whiners and faux transgressive bores, Al Green will make you believe.
The Arkansas–born, Michigan–raised, Memphis-living Green crafted brilliant albums during his Hi Records heyday (Al Green Gets Next to You, Let’s Stay Together, I’m Still in Love With You, Call Me), his live performances (which I’ve fanatically collected over the years) are something to behold -- sexy, inspirational, transcendent experiences that weren’t simply swoon-worthy (though the ladies love Al Green), but genius examples of tightness and improvisation. Al Green can riff off the margins, break from his sensuous mid-range to talk to the audience, and then lift to falsetto only to bust into a goose-bump–inducing raw growl that comes from a place so deep it’s nearly impossible to describe its power.
To use simpler terms, Green performs with raw, soulful intensity in its purest form. And where do you see that anymore? Heaven? Green is heaven on earth. And in trying times, listening to Green say "Help me, I'll help you, Jesus, save my soul, I'll live for you, I'll do my best to just, do what I can to, stand up and be a man." Well, chriiiist. Never mind I'm a woman, goddammit, I want to stand up and be a man.
A man indeed. Green’s realness can be achieved anywhere, from the soundstages of Soul Train to his awe-inspiring Midnight Special appearances, to still-packed concert halls to his Full Gospel Tabernacle where the soul icon remains the residing reverend. If you’re ever in Memphis, don’t miss the chance to possibly catch Mr. Green presiding over worship -- an experience that, years back, one of my atheist-leaning friends caught and was so significantly inspired by, the guy was moved to tears. If you’ve ever watched Green perform the baptism-by-orgasm “Take Me to the River,” you’ll completely understand his reaction.
So, judgement day. Green makes me want to pop a doll, worship God and face the white horse all at once. Especially when he sings the sexy, slinky, scary, haunting “Jesus Is Waiting.” You can interpret this Soul Train performance as pure holy high or, pure holy high-high (check out Green's eyes) or whatever kind of godliness you apply to your Green, but one thing’s for sure, it’s on a holy high mountain of silky hot brilliance. This is religion. This is rapture.